In high school they were always telling us to shoot for the stars. That's what I was trying to do in this picture. Actually I was aiming for the sun, which is a star so it still counts. Don't ask why I am shirtless, I guess it was the hunter and gatherer in me finally coming out.
After the wedding we had an extra day in Hazyview before most of us headed to Cape Town. With our last full day we decided to go exploring some natural wonders that had nothing to do with animals. The first one we tried to see was a spot called God's Window. This point was used in the movie "God's Must be Crazy" where the main character goes to throw the evil coke bottle off the "edge of the earth". Because of the low clouds it indeed looked as such. Unfortunately for us, the Window was steamed up and the fog that day did not permit us to see anything from what is supposed to be a beautiful view point atop a high altitude. So we instead, decided to go to a place appropriately called Potholes:
This geological phenomenon was caused over thousands of years by whirling pools of water. It reminded me of a mini Grand Canyon because of the colors and cliffs. The smooth red and yellow rocks contrast nicely with the dark pools.
Next, we went to a vantage point that was much clearer than God's window:
A spectacular view! What you can barely see in this picture is how windy it was and how frozen all of us were. It was supposed to be springtime, but that day felt a lot closer to winter.
We proceeded to drive back to the hotel for a bri (BBQ in American), but unfortunately got caught in a hailstorm and had to keep ourselves occupied by telling stories and taking silly pictures:
If we're all staring at the camera then who is driving? Good thing Cooper can multi-task. We were forced to double back due to a traffic stoppage which made us 2 hours late for the BBQ. This did not sit well with the newlywed bride as you might imagine. We all felt bad for Andrew, but we did have as fun a time in the car as a group can have on a road trip.
The next day most of the group bid farewell to Kruger and all the magnificent animals + made our way back to Johannesburg airport to fly to Cape Town.
That ridiculous view is the city of Cape Town from afar. You can barely make out the downtown area where the water meets land and directly behind it is Table Mountain which is pretty incredible in its own right, and is being considered for one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature. (Note: There are 28 finalists + I've only seen 6 of them. I'm thinking my goal should be to see them all. For more info or to vote visit www.new7wonders.com). The mountain is often covered by rolling clouds that locals affectionately call a "Table cloth" for the appearance it gives. If I lived in Cape Town I don't think I'd ever get tired of that view.
The vantage point from the top of table mountain. There is a way to hike to the top which is about 1,000 meters above sea level, but you can also take a tram which is what I did that day. It's a bit hazy, but you can make out downtown Cape Town a little better in this picture. If you look real hard, in the back left you might see a big white oval which is one of the main stadiums they built for the World Cup.
The foreboding view from the other side of the mountain.
That peculiar looking creature in the picture is called a dassie. They live atop the mountain + and look like a cross between a beaver and a small bear. Here's a better picture:
I went in to get a close up and I don't think he was too excited about that.
While in Cape Town I was fortunate to stay with Mich and Andrew, the newlyweds, and a friend of Mich's named Menanto. She was an amazing host + took off work one day to drive us around. Behind Table mountain there is a peninsula that extends to a tip called Cape Point. In case you were wondering, "Well that's great Alex, but what is the longitude and latitude of this Cape Point?". Worry not, I have you covered:
So now that you have your bearings, you are probably trying to figure out how far that point is from the city you live in or New York in my case. We aim to be a full-service blog so let me do that work for you...
Hopefully that clears everything up and there are no more questions.
The view from atop Cape Point. You can't see but someone had drawn a big heart in the sand on that beach.
The city is fantastic and I never tired of the breathtaking views.
Despite being next to an urban metropolis you couldn't go too far in any direction without getting a reminder that you are still in Africa and in Africa wild animals run free:
Baboons in the street. We had to stop for them + roll up our windows because apparently if they think you have food they are not above jumping into a car to get it. The little ones look cute but they can get nasty!
On the drive back from Cape point one of my favorite animals since I was little, just hanging out on some rocks. These penguins were sunning themselves and thought I was a weirdo for getting so close but I couldn't help myself.
An expanded view. There must have been 20 or so of them.
Of course, the other thing South Africa is known for besides the scenery and wild animals is Apartheid. For my first 6 days, I barely noticed this country had gone through such an unseemly and relatively recent upheaval from those inglorious days. My buddy John likened it to the decades in Germany following World War II where most people were confused and those who were previously in power just acted as if injustices had never happened. I didn't sense a large feeling of resentment by the native african people there but I don't think I was there for long enough or in the right places (mostly touristy spots), for I'm sure it exists. How can it not? The only place they did discuss Apartheid openly was in my tour of Robben Island. That is the famous island where they held many political and most dangerous criminals during Apartheid including Nelson Mandela for 23 years.
This was his cell for most of those years. During the tour you were given free time to wander into various cells and in many of them they had a few paragraphs written by the prisoners who inhabited them. Very eye opening and powerful stuff.
One of the coolest things about the tour is that after you get bused around the island, you are dropped off at the prison and handed off to a new guide that is a former prisoner. At the end of our tour of the cells and facilities he took us to this public cell and we had a Q&A session with him. He is an older gentleman now, but apparently was locked up for being an instigator and part of a bomb plot against Apartheid back in the day. It was very interesting and educational.
As it turns out, Menanto, our host, is originally from the Kalahari desert. When I heard that, all I could blurt out was, "Have you seen 'The Gods Must be Crazy'?". If you haven't seen this movie, go rent it. It was made in 1980 and is hands down the best movie I've ever had to watch in school. It tells the story of what happens when an African tribe called the Bushmen has a simple coke bottle fall into their village (they've never seen glass before). The Bushmen live in the Kalahari and Menanto, of course, knew that and about the movie. Somehow she found a small Bushman reservation about 2 hours north of Cape Town so we set out to check it out for the first time for both of us.
This was the charming (and warm) entrance. The name of this small reservation and Guest house is !kwha ttu. The ! is a click you make with your tongue and the top of your mouth. They have various clicks in their language but more on that later.
This is the cute bathroom sign they use for male vs. female.
We took a game tour of their property conducted by a bushman. After driving in a large metal cart pulled by a noisy tractor we got off in the middle of the bush.
The first thing he taught us about was tracking. That little box next to him has rocks that make different tracks of animals in the sand right in front. We learned about tracking everything from springboks to porcupines and that even a springbok can make 3 different types tracks (standing, running and springing). Now, if I ever crash on an island I won't be completely useless.
Then vs now
Again the wind playing havoc with my hair. In my right hand is an ostrich egg. The bushmen used to use them to carry water in as they were large and durable.
We came to a village where we sat and learned about the different instruments and utensils the bushmen created. This woman spoke entirely in her native language and our guide translated which was an unexpected treat.
To build a fire...he succeeded in the end despite the strong winds.
I am concentrated and focused on the language lesson at the end of our tour. Here he explained about 6 different clicks his native language uses from the ! to a click you would use to call a horse (using the side of your mouth). It felt silly at first, but we got to practice each one. All in all, the tour was a definite success and I recommend it to anyone staying in Cape Town for more than a few days + who want to do something off the beaten path.
In addition to the above, there's a plethora of other attractions and excursions offered in South Africa including a multitude of exquisite vineyards, whale watching, serious safaris, etc. I didn't have time to pack everything in, but I hope this gives a sense of how fabulous the people, beasts and natural beauty are.
I don't have any more big trips planned till after the new year so I will take a little break from blogging to focus on work endeavors. A sincere thanks to everyone who logs in to read my rants as I hope they are somewhat entertaining and that you learn at least one new fact each time. Happy Holidays to all + best wishes for the New Year!!!